Australian muay thai competitor fights for life in Thai hospital
Credit to Ulises Izquierdo
The fight took place in Thailand last year.
A Melbourne-based martial arts fighter is fighting for life in Thailand after competing last year.
Sy Leafa, 23, has been in hospital since September 9 after a muay thai bout in Bangkok’s Lumpinee stadium ended with him getting hit by an elbow to the head in the fourth round.
Shortly after the referee declared a loss to Leafa, who lived in New Zealand before moving to Australia, the young athlete showed signs of feeling unwell while leaving the ring.
“They took him to the back and he started seizing up. It was pretty horrific for everyone there,” friend and teammate Jack Jenkins told AAP.
“They rushed him to the hospital and he had brain bleeding. They said they needed to do a brain operation to release the pressure on his brain immediately.”
His first operation went well, but 24 hours later he had more surgery during which they removed part of his skull. He’s been in a coma ever since.
His chances of surviving looked bleak, but he no no longer needs life support.
Leafa is still in a coma, but his condition is improving and has started to respond. His friends and family hoped to have him back in Melbourne by the end of October, but a series of medical complications have dragged out the process.
So far his medical expenses have been paid for by friends and through money raised by a GoFundMe campaign set up by Jenkins, which raised $40,000.
However, that money ran out this week. It will cost about $60,000 to safely take him to Australia through a medical transport company by February.
The young man’s chances of a complete recovery are low, but his friends are refusing to give up on him, hoping to raise another $80,000 for his care.
“We definitely feel like it’s our responsibility and absolutely the right thing to do to get him home to ensure he gets the best chance he does,” Jenkins said.
Leafa arrived in Melbourne aged 14, from New Zealand. He had trained full-time in Melbourne and competed in professional fights since he was 18 years old, learning with Australian UFC fighters such Jimmy Crute, Jake Matthews and Ben Sosoli.
In June last year, he won a one-year sponsorship in June that allowed him to move to Thailand to chase his dream of professionally fighting at the highest level.
“He’s the type of guy that would give you his last $10 if you needed it,” Sosoli told AAP.
“I’m pretty sure one of the first things he’s gonna ask for when he’s back up is when he’ll be able to rematch that guy from his last fight.”